GREATER LANDOVER, Md. — The Washington Commanders failed to win when it mattered most, and thus failed to reach the post-season. On Sunday, when they take the field at home against the Dallas Cowboys, it will be for the final time. Players say that's a tough pill to swallow.
"Looking back, we were right there. We were one play here, one play there from [winning] all of those games -- from making some noise and being in the playoffs," said Charles Leno. "Eliminate those bad plays here and there, and things would be different."
Leno was not alone in feeling disappointed about how the season is ending.
"Of course as a football player, as a competitor, you always want to make the playoffs said Curtis Samuel. "Unfortunately, that wasn't how the season went."
Jahan Dotson said he was looking forward to playing in a playoff atmosphere.
"As a rookie I hear all about how cool it is playing in the playoffs. The atmosphere is different. So not being able to reach that mark this year is really tough, but it just fuels the fire," he said.
Right now, the Commanders focus is on Dallas. The Cowboys could clinch the division title with a win Sunday and an Eagles loss. But Washington wants to play spoiler.
With a new quarterback under center in rookie Sam Howell, and a handful of players battling injuries, the Commanders will look to use some new talent in the game Sunday, and evaluate for the future. That starts with Howell.
The rookie QB's teammates were excited by what they saw in practice.
"He looks so cool when he's in the pocket. He throws the ball very effortless. He puts it on the money, puts it where it needs to be every single time. I can't wait for the opportunity for him to start and be out there throwing touchdowns to us," Dotson said.
Wide receiver Terry McLaurin was impressed by Howell's poise ahead of his NFL debut.
"He plays with a lot of confidence and the reps he got in preseason and in practice, he's not afraid to really attack the defense," McLaurin said. "I'm excited to see him get an opportunity to show what he can do."
The Commanders kickoff against the Cowboys at FedEx Field at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday.